7/11/09

Bishop Whitaker: Let us pray - with the Church

Here is an excellent post from Bishop Whitaker urging United Methodist pastors to use the Church's prayer of Great Thanksgiving when celebrating the sacrament of Holy Communion. The sacrament is a focal point of our worship, especially in the Wesleyan tradition as the bishop points out (sadly many of our churches seem ignorant of this, judging by their practice), and how we celebrate this sacrament is highly important:
In some congregations, it has become the custom of the pastor to offer his or her own prayer as a substitute for the Church's prayer. Sometimes the pastor includes the words of institution, and sometimes the pastor does not include these words. While it is essential to include the words of our Lord which were spoken at the Last Supper when he instituted the Lord's Supper, even this is not adequate.

The prayer of the Church should be used when celebrating the Eucharist because it is the prayer of the whole Church and not that of just the congregation or the pastor. It contains the whole drama of God's salvation from creation to the new creation. It is ordered around the Rule of Faith, namely the worship of one God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
He goes on to address other reasons for using the church's official liturgy and encouraging pastors to do so.
Some of the comments are illuminating as well. One comment notes the fact that some clergy who do indeed use the official liturgy do so in a hurried and thoughtless way that detracts from the sacramental moment rather than undergirding it. I have long maintained that a scripted prayer can be (and must be) read with real sincerity and conviction - but this is by no means automatic. The clergy must prepare themselves spiritually and indeed be mindful of exactly what it is they are doing in the moment of prayer itself. However, one advantage of using the church's liturgy over a sponteneous prayer is that it will be as theologically sound and as deeply true whether or not the pastor is spiritually prepared or actively mindful of the holy moment.
For those who are interested in going further, here is a relatively short article about the evolution of the liturgy in the United Methodist Church, from the Ancient Church, through the Medival and Anglican/Reformation periods, down to the present.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Andrew C. Thompson said...

Thanks for this post. It is important for the laity to understand the theological movement that the Eucharistic liturgy represents. But in order for that to happen, the clergy must understand it first!

The more I read from Bishop Whitaker, the more convinced I am that he is offering the church the very model of what a bishop should be and can be. He really takes the teaching aspect of the episcopal office seriously. And like a true Wesleyan, he exhibits a theological sensibility and a pastoral approach that are both evangelical and catholic.

7:05 AM, July 14, 2009  
Blogger Joshua said...

are you a post-modernist?

9:28 AM, July 14, 2009  
Blogger Daniel McLain Hixon said...

Andrew,
I believe you 'hit the nail on the head' in both your comments.

Joshua,
I am uncertain if your question is directed at me or at Andrew, but I'll assume it is directed at me.
Before I can really answer it satisfactorily I would need to know what you mean by "post-modernist"?

I can say this: like all men, I am a man of my time and am influenced by the cultural and intellectual milleu in which I live, though I hope I am at least critically aware of it. I was born in 1982 and sit right on the fence between the end of Gen-X and the beginning of the Millenials/Gen-Y, so I have grown up completely in what some scholars call the post-modern age, with its emphases on image, on flexibility, and so on. Many of my musings on this blog are precisely about how to engage post-modern people with the timeless Christian faith.

I also, like certain other observers who writings have influenced me, see in post-modernity an opportunity for Christianity to free ourselves from the constraints of a sort of rational positivism that excludes belief in Angels, demon, miracles, resurrection, and perhaps even God - at least the sort of God described in the Bible. I certainly believe in making good use of Reason in theology, but not letting it be used as a slogan or excuse to avoid doing business withe the claims of Jesus as the are (as has sometimes happened). I also see in post-modernity an opportunity to reclaim some pre-modern elements of the faith (learning from the ancient Church, using ritual and liturgy) that many Moderns (people from the 18th-20th centuries) despised as "superstitious" or simply despised for being old (and presumably therefore "regressive"). We can certainly embrace SOME of the post-modern critiques of Modernity to allow us to recover these timeless elements of our faith.

If by post-modernist you mean "moral relativist," then the answer is surely no, I am not.

For more info on what (and how) I believe, you can click the "paleo-orthox" link on my sidebar, scoll all the way to the bottom and read your way up. You will read my reflections on theological method, even as my own was taking shape.

I hope that helps.

Now I have a question for you: Why (especially considering the content of this post) do you ask?

10:47 AM, July 14, 2009  

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